Sharp rise in identity fraud as scammers use Facebook and other social media sites to hunt for information 

Fraudsters are increasingly using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a “hunting ground” for personal information, leading to huge rise in identity theft, according to a new report.

The number of victims of identity theft rose by 57pc last year, Cifas, the fraud prevention service, said. There were more than 148,000 victims in the UK in 2015, compared with almost 94,500 in 2014.

According to Javelin’s 2016 Identity Fraud Study, over 13 million U.S. residents were the victims of identity theft in 2015, and it was the top consumer complaint to the FTC. The scariest part is that experts forecast identity theft to become more prevalent in the coming years given the amount of public information that is available online about each and every one of us.

Identity fraud happens when a criminal pretends to be an innocent individual in order to take out a financial product, such as a loan or credit card, in their name.

Fraudsters often trawl social media sites to find personal information, such as your name, date of birth, address and name of your bank.

They will gather the information in a number of ways, including hacking if a company that holds information about you doesn’t protect its data properly. They will also use social media to “put the pieces of someone’s identity together”, the report said.

Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, said: “Fraudsters are opportunists. As banks and lenders have become more adept at detecting false identities, fraudsters have focused on stealing and using genuine people’s details instead.

“The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites - they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves.

“We are urging people to check their privacy settings today and think twice about what they share.”

Why You Likely Need Identity Theft Insurance

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (among others) have become a part of our everyday lives.

The business model behind social media encourages users to input as much personal detail as possible in order to closely target these users with appropriate ads. Most of us are happy to do so in order to gain access to the platforms, but don’t realise the risk we are taking.

Hackers can easily exploit the personal data that is on social media websites to imitate you and steal your identity. Most people forget to log out of an active Facebook session, and are not aware that you can set up notifications to receive login alerts. A few basic pieces of information like your birth date, address, and place of work may be enough for criminals to apply for a credit card or gain access to your bank account. If your Facebook has been hacked and you don’t have identity theft insurance, you may be liable for charges that thieves rack up in your name. Click here to read more about how to protect your identity on social media.

Victims often do not realise they have been targeted until a bill arrives for something they did not buy or until they have a problem with their credit rating.

Companies like Contract Review Experts help when such a theft took place.